February 7 – Anniversary of the Bonfire of the Vanities

Posted on February 7, 2017

On this date in 1497, a friar in Florence, Italy, and his supporters gathered up and publicly burned the things that (the priest thought) might encourage people to sin. According to the friar, Girolamo Savonarola, that included cosmetics, beautiful clothing, playing cards, mirrors, luxury items, and - most upsetting to me - things having to do with the arts: musical instruments, certain books, manuscripts of secular songs, paintings and sculptures and tapestries that Savonarola did not think were properly pious.

Savonarola held similar bonfires multiple years, actually, and he had a squad of soldiers that forced people to relinquish their possessions to the fire. It's depressing to read that he mandated the destruction of priceless - and sometimes ancient - art objects and irreplaceable manuscripts.

In the name of religion, Savonarola destroyed history. And music and literature and art. And beauty.

The Pope did not approve of the extremism of Savonarola, and he had the friar excommunicated (basically, kicked out). Also, the people of Florence began to turn against the friar. Officials of Florence had Savonarola executed (by being burned to death - how horrifying!), and the Pope mandated that anyone who had any of Savonarola's writings must turn them over to be destroyed. Anyone who kept the executed friar's writings would be excommunicated.

Yikes, yikes, yikes!

The irony of someone destroying things by fire being, himself, destroyed by fire, and someone who censored writings having his own writings censored - well, it's just awful!

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